Student `voice' from Harford Tech

Abingdon junior, 16, elected to represent his peers on Harford County school board

January 14, 2007|By Cassandra A. Fortin | Cassandra A. Fortin,special to the sun

Chase Jackson doesn't readily take no for an answer.

The Harford Technical High School junior learned last fall that Future Business Leaders of America was closing the school's chapter because Harford Tech doesn't offer a business class.

The 16-year-old Abingdon resident went into action, arguing to the organization that its rules don't require a member school to have a business class.

"The bylaws say that any school with a business interest or business class can have a chapter of the FBLA," Chase said. "But when I approached them with that, they ignored it and said we had to close the chapter.

"But I am not giving up," he said.

He has approached county education officials and teachers at the school about adding a business class at Harford Tech.

While that effort continues, Chase will have a new arena in which to advocate for his peers as the student representative to the county school board. He was elected by the county's student government association, composed of members of student governments at each Harford high school. His election was announced at the county school board meeting last week. He assumes the position July 1.

The job is a good fit for Jackson, said Melissa Hammond, ninth-grade English teacher at Harford Tech.

"Chase is driven and well-spoken," she said. "He thinks about the big picture and the long-term effect of what he's doing."

Jackson, who is the captain of the school's forensics team, said he's up for the challenge. For starters, he has a natural ability for public speaking.

"Since I was a freshman, it has always invigorated me to convey how I feel to a crowd," he said. "And in debate you take the side of the issue they give you, which is not necessarily the side you agree with. As student representative I will be the voice of all the students."

The issues Chase mentioned as priorities include curriculum equality (all courses available at all schools), adding information on birth control to the health class curriculum, and the plan to start the high school day 15 minutes earlier next year.

"I believe that having the same classes available to students at all schools of the same level is important," said Jackson, who plans to study business administration at the University of Pennsylvania. "I would like to see this school offer business math and accounting, like some of the other schools in the county."

He also sees teenage pregnancy as a growing problem in high school -- one that could be helped by changes to the health curriculum.

"I believe that abstinence and the use of contraceptives should be taught in health class," he said. "Kids are having sex earlier now, and there are girls getting pregnant all the time."

Another concern of his is the planned earlier start to the high school day. Starting next year, school will begin 15 minutes earlier, at 7:30 a.m. Studies show that students perform better academically when they are rested, said Jackson. Starting the school day earlier could hinder performance.

"Starting school earlier will mean more students sleeping during class," he said. "That can't help grades."

Chase's predecessor as student representative -- Jennifer Cook, a senior at Harford Tech -- said he is working to get off to a strong start. He approached her last year to learn about the duties he will be required to perform.

"When it came time to select a new student rep, Chase immediately came to mind because he has great leadership skills that are well above the normal high school student," said Cook, who is planning to study marketing at Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Okla.

Integrity is among the most important qualities that the student representative should possess, Jackson said.

"Too often people go after what they want without regard to other people," he said. "They only see what benefits them. I try to do what will benefit the group, rather than just me."

In addition to approaching his Harford Tech classmates to get a sense of what they think the important issues facing students are, Jackson is also sounding out peers from other schools.

"I am trying to find out what kind of issues that aren't so obvious are important to students in the county," he said. "When I represent them, I want to know I am speaking about the things that matter the most."

Jackson plans to meet bimonthly with the presidents of each of the school's student government associations.

"I want to have question-and-answer-type meetings with them to see what's on the minds of the students in their schools," he said. "Then I want to take those concerns to the board. When my one-year term is up, I want to leave knowing that I made something better for my peers and for future generations of students."

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